One of the recent comments I’ve had about my collection of biographies of the world’s leading chocolatiers is that there weren’t any women listed. I wonder if the PR team of Neuhaus were listening as today I received a large parcel from them which included this delightful presentation box of pralines and ganaches – all created or inspired by nine of the world’s finest female chefs.
I constantly moan about packaging and how it’s essential when creating luxury chocolate gifts to set the scene well even before the recipient gets to see the chocolates held within. Neuhaus has it the mark spot on with is this incredibly luxurious leather-feel luxuriously padded casket. Before I tasted the ganaches but had a peek at them and only after a cursory look at the packaging I tried to guess how much these eighteen creations would cost – I came up with £40. The actual price is £30 which you can purchase from their South Molton Street store, their Harrods concession (and I expect online too soon) – great value, but how do they taste?
The first I tried was the walnut and herb ganache by Fina Puigdevall who’s a Spanish chef at “Les Cols” and winner of two stars. This ganache was soft and wonderfully understated which just hints of the herbs coming through at the end. It was smooth, sweet and exhibiting a wonderful solid backdrop to the tentative flavours. There was nothing outrageous here, just simplistic beauty.
The next was a nougatine gianduja and Jalapeno affair wrapped in dark chocolate and was created by Patricia Desmedt who is the head chef at “‘t Oud Konijnte” in Belgium. This one is as similarly subtle as the previous. But that’s what you’re led to believe until the Jalapeno kicks in. You won’t be gasping for milk after as it still fairly muted, but it does offer something different from the usual gianduja offering. The nougatine offers some sweetness to counter-balance the heat from the chilli and is certainly one I’d love to try again.
The Léa Linster was the third to review and similarly offered a wonderful fruitiness offered by the orange but softened against the almonds all enrobed in milk chocolate. Another truly delightful ganache.
Thomasina Miers who appeared in the BBC television programme Masterchef is to thank for the next. This one combines praline, nougat and chilli dark ganache with a dark chocolate enrobing and was incredibly sexy. There’s a great deal of earthiness at the beginning which is supplied by the chilli which wanes and reappears with a wonderful kick after the melt. I definitely would like some more please!
We go back to Belgium for the next. Arabelle Meirlaan, who is the chef at ‘Lo Cwerneu’ in Huy has developed a ganache with Sancho pepper with gianduja and enrobed in milk chocolate. It would be wrong to call this one bland, but it certainly offers a restricted flavour compared to the experience offered by the others, but it certainly is nice to be brought back down to earth and to have one’s pallet someone cleansed.
At first I couldn’t tie this one into a name, but after tasting it it’s obvious who’s responsible for this little beauty! We have Annie Féolde to thank for this delightful praline which combines nuts and orange ganache with cinnamon and coriander and all enrobed in milk chocolate. I normally don’t like orange-related chocolate but the flavours were again subtle and complimented by the roundness of the coriander flavour. Too often orange flavoured chocolate is too harsh and acidic, this, by contrast is a pure delight!
I then approached the Hélène Darroze dark ganache with a hint of “piment d’Espelette” (Espeltte pepper) and raspberry which offered some ‘bait and switch’. You get a soft pepper flavour which as soon as it becomes noticeable evaporates and turns into a gorgeous, sweet raspberry flavour. And this fruitiness offered a refreshing change to the ‘main course’ flavours of the others.
Next I had a gianduja praline with shortbread ganache with caramel and a touch of ‘fleur de sel’ which was simply out of this world. I love biscuity flavours, but mixed with the slightly salted caramel it was heaven. Words fail me – utterly delicious. In fact I’d go as far as saying ‘lip-smackingly’ good! For this one we have Trish Deseine to thank.
Lastly we have another of my favourites – marzipan. Sofie Dumont from Belgium has created a ganache which combines marzipan, olive oil and shards of cocoa beans. And it works incredibly well. The sweetness of the marzipan contradicts the bitterness of the cocoa beans and leads to a compromise of flavours that actually raises the profile of each flavour.
I’d say they’re all damn good. I may have liked another fruity one, as there were a couple or more with chilli or pepper in. That being said, I still through they were delicious and very good value for money given the quality of the presentation box. Well worth getting if you’re looking for a luxury chocolate gift for a loved one this Christmas.